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The three people Chad Knaus called on the night of his seventh championship

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Chad Knaus called three people on the night of winning his seventh championship with Jimmie Johnson last November.

One took some extra work – fitting because it was the person who validated his tireless dedication to pursue a dream: Ray Evernham.

“I know I woke his butt up, too, he was sound asleep,” Knaus said with a chuckle during the most recent NASCAR on NBC podcast. “I called like three times. Obviously, I’d had a few drinks and was feeling pretty happy. ‘Man, you better answer the phone.’”

When Evernham did answer, Knaus expressed heartfelt gratitude to the man who gave him his big break in NASCAR. Before becoming Johnson’s crew chief in 2002, Knaus started his career at Hendrick Motorsports in 1993 on Evernham’s crew with Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet.

“(Evernham) was a big part of me understanding what I was capable of and gave me a lot of opportunity to grow when I was young,” Knaus said. “When I moved down from Chicago (with a) brash, straight-to-the-point attitude, (it) didn’t necessarily fit with the Southern guys.

“It was the good old boys, take it one race at a time whatever happens, happens and have a good time. That wasn’t the way we raced in the Midwest with Rusty Wallace, Dick Trickle and Mark Martin. It was hard, hard racing. Coming down to work with Ray and the 24 car, he just reaffirmed that hard work, dedication, doing what’s right and being smart about decision-making process is exactly what will make you successful, and that helped me tremendously. He definitely laid the foundation which was awesome.”

Evernham is fond of often telling the story that when he hired him, Knaus told Evernham “I want your job within five years.”

Now at least statistically, Knaus has surpassed Evernham, who was voted the greatest crew chief of all time after winning three titles with Gordon.

“That’s what he tells me,” Knaus said of Evernham. “He tells me that all the time. I still have the utmost respect for him.”

The other two people that Knaus, 45, called after the championship?

His father, John (whom he served as crew chief for as a 14-year-old in Rockford, Ill.) and his wife, Brooke, who couldn’t attend the finale.

She was the first person Knaus called after fulfilling a few hours of postrace media obligations. “She obviously was in tears and having a great time celebrating with friends back in Charlotte,” Knaus said.

During the podcast, Knaus also addressed:

–His relationship with Johnson and why the two have managed to stay together through 15 seasons and win a record-tying seven championships;

–The importance of car chief Ron Malec, who has been with Johnson and Knaus since the No. 48 team’s inception, and why Knaus doesn’t like to hire away from other teams;

–What the legacy of seven titles means to him;

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the AudioBoom embed below or download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

 

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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